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Thursday, August 5, 2021

Campus

Delta variant concerns loom as fall semester nears


Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Despite the infamous COVID-19 delta variant being found across Texas, UH continues its plan to hold in-person classes for the fall semester.

The variant is more transmissible than the original form of the virus. As of late June, the delta variant makes up a little under half of the cases in the U.S. and was reported in multiple Texas counties, including Harris and Fort Bend.

The University recently lifted its mask policy after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring governmental entities from mandating face coverings.

Although the mask mandate was lifted, some students still feel the need to wear one around campus come fall.

Mechanical engineering junior Ravi Desai said even if he’s vaccinated, he’s still planning on wearing a mask on campus to further protect himself and those around him.

“With many people still unvaccinated in the state of Texas, I worry for the overall well-being of our student body and faculty,” Desai said. “I worry that a potential outbreak could not only jeopardize students returning to campus, but also the health of everyone involved.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends only unvaccinated people should wear masks or physically distance themselves when going about daily activities. Those who are fully vaccinated can safely go unmasked, the agency recommends.

“I am confident that UH will make the best decision for its students with regard to both their health and learning,” Desai said.

Despite some student’s confidence in the University for keeping students safe, others aren’t so optimistic.

“I feel nervous,” said public health senior Arwa Hasnain. “I recently heard that UH wasn’t going to enforce masks, which is a bit concerning. I know I will be wearing my masks in my classes and whenever I’m not in my dorm but I have a strong feeling that the rest of campus won’t be wearing masks.”

Hasnain said she will plan on practicing other preventative measures in class and public spaces when possible, such as social distancing.

“Until the risk of catching the delta variant is reduced, I will adopt those respective measures on campus,” said Hasnain.

In a previous statement, UH spokesperson Shawn Lindsey said the University still encourages members of the UH community to wear a mask, especially unvaccinated individuals.

As a result of COVID-19 restrictions being relaxed, the University is offering 80 percent of its courses in person, which many students are eager to return to.

“I’m honestly so glad, I had never felt so depleted of energy and motivation,” Hasnain said.

Not only were online courses a chore for Hasnain, but she also took a hit to her mental health trying to keep up.

“I am ready to resume in-person activities,” she said. “I’m sure my classmates and friends can say the same.”

Desai echoed Hasnain’s sentiments, saying he’s ecstatic to attend in-person events with the rest of his peers, even with the looming threat of a potential outbreak.

“Taking online classes and being away from friends was difficult to experience, as I’m sure it was for many others,” Desai said. “By being back on campus, we’ll be able to reunite with friends, meet new people, and connect with professors face-to-face.”

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